On Cultivating a Personal Style & Trying to Become a Jazzy Old Woman

Thursday, September 25, 2014

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I've never thought much about fashion. I wouldn't say I have a great sense of style, but I don't feel like I have a terrible one, either. I wear what I like, which is usually a combination of comfortable, neutral, & classic, with a little bit of bohemian thrown in on occasion. I don't much like prints or colors, I don't wear anything structured or that requires ironing, & I haven't worn a skirt since 2009, when my very fashionable roommate admitted that even she felt they were too difficult to coordinate. I frequently  wear leggings as pants, I have a soft spot for anything cozy & oversized, & I love big, loud gold jewelry.

In other words, I'm a girl who knows what she likes, even when what I like isn't necessarily what's cool.

For the first time in my life, I have a walk-in closet, & it was a pretty thrilling moment last fall after I moved in & hung everything up, then stepped back to admire my handiwork. "Look at all my stuff!" I told myself triumphantly. "I have so many clothes!'

But, like, why do I need all those clothes? Why does anyone? As the year wore on, all my clothes on display in front of me every morning, I realized just how few items I actually wear. I'm forever returning to the same 20 or so pieces, dressing in black because I prefer it to just about anything else. I never want to wear my patterned GAP button-ups or my structured business dresses or my bright red corduroy pants. Why do I even own these things? This is someone else's style.

And I'm 30 now. Somehow, turning 30 has provided me with a new-found sense of entitlement - but not in a bad way. At 30, I feel like I'm allowed to own my style, to stop trying to be something I'm not, to wear all-black if I want to, to cultivate a style that works for me instead of one that I see working for everyone else.

So I'm getting rid of everything that doesn't suit me, & I'm only going to wear the things I love.

Since making this decision, I've listed nearly half of my wardrobe on Poshmark (which you can join, by the way, using my promotional code HMUGD to get a $5 credit). While I'd love to be able to just donate it all, money is tight, & I need to bring in extra cash where I can. Whatever doesn't sell there will go to ThredUp or the local Martha's Table thrift store.

The money I make selling my old wardrobe will go into my new one, a more carefully cultivated style that brings in only items I love & that fit my recently pinpointed aesthetic. I want more black, more textures, more drapey cardigans, more bold accessories that make other women say, "I couldn't pull that off."

You know those sort-of-crazy oldish women, the ones who are past middle-aged but not quite elderly yet, either? They're, like, 65 or 70, & they're wearing thick, plastic glasses & big capes & massive pieces of jewelry & crazy scarves & big, billowy pants made out of, like, curtains? Yeah. Them. I look at them - I saw one at the Arby's at the airport today, of all places - & am blown away by their ability to look chic despite the fact that nothing they're wearing is magazine-standard trendy - & despite the fact that they're too old for magazine-standard trendy, anyway. They dress for style, not sex appeal, & they always look comfortable & quirky & damn good.

My goal is to dress like one of those fabulously quirky middle-aged woman - long before I am actually middle-aged. And if I may say so myself, I think I'm off to a damn good start.

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How Can You Run When You Know? #WeAreKentState

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

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In the early 1970s, not long after the May 4th shootings, my parents met at a house party at Kent State University, where they were both students. When I was born in 1984, they still lived within the Kent city limits, in a tiny house across the street from Stoddard's Ice Cream. I may have been born down the road at a hospital in Akron, but in every other way, I got my start in Kent.

In the early '90s, I began attending day camp at Kent State for Kids, held on the KSU campus. My dad dropped me off at camp on his a way to work each morning, & I spent my days in "classes" that I'd chosen out of a booklet designed to look like a course catalog. I took archery & swimming & miming (?!) & Korean in the same buildings where my parents had attended their college classes - & where I would later attend my own. I wrote poetry while lying on the May 4th memorial with my creative writing class, which produced my first piece of "published" writing.

Later on in the '90s, my mom returned to Kent State to pursue her masters in library science. I remember waiting in line with her at the registrar's office & begging her to let me spray paint the giant rock at the front of campus, a college tradition that seemed like the ultimate in adulthood to my childlike understanding. "Maybe when you're older," she told me. In 1997, when we hosted my bat mitzvah party in the Rathskellar, a bar at the student center, I again begged my mom to let my friends & me paint the rock as part of the celebration. I was unsuccessful in my plea; I have still never painted the rock.

In 2001, when I was applying to colleges, I lied & told my mother that I had sent in my application to Kent State. I had not. (Sorry, Mom.) I loved Kent State, but it felt like my childhood, not my future. I had no interest in attending a college I'd known so intimately for my entire life.

And in 2005, when I decided I couldn't stay at Ohio University for another second, I moved back into my mother's house & began attending Kent State University, just seven miles down the road. I felt like a massive failure; it seemed seemed like the ultimate embarrassment to have transferred to the hometown school, the school my parents went to, the school half of the population of my high school went to.

It didn't take me long to realize it was one of the best decisions of my life.

I graduated from Kent State in 2007 with a Bachelor's of Science in News. Most of it was earned in Taylor Hall, the journalism building - the building whose parking lot paves the area where the unthinkable happened on May 4th, 1970. Each year on the anniversary of the shootings, I joined Kent State Hillel in placing rocks on each of the blocked-off spots where four students died. These days, Taylor Hall is the May 4th Visitors Center, dedicated to preserving the memory of what happened that day & why - what it meant for the school & the country & for history.

On my last day of classes at Kent State, I called my mother in tears: "I'm going to come back," I promised. "Maybe I'll get my masters here, too."

I never wanted to go to Kent State - but I have always been Kent State, intentionally or otherwise. Today & every day, I am proud to call myself a part of a university that carries so much history & still has so much pride - & oh, yeah, this degree is pretty nice, too. I am a Kent State alum from a family of Kent State alums. And #WeAreKentState.

This post was written for #WeAreKentState, a Facebook event asking Kent State supporters to wear blue & gold today. It was organized as a show of pride in response to Urban Outfitters' recent decision to sell a "vintage" KSU sweatshirt that appears to be splattered with blood.
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